Posts Tagged ‘Biblical Authority’
Recently I visited a Pentecostal church and once again I heard the old teaching that “logos” is the written Word of God but “rhema” is the “revelation to the heart from God.” In other words, “logos” is the Bible and “rhema” is a personal revelation from God the Holy Spirit.
A few thoughts are in order. First, the Greek usage of “logos” and “rhema” here is horrible. Not one Greek scholar (barring perhaps someone from the Word-Faith camp) would try to build this case. Every Greek lexicon and Greek word study book I own doesn’t offer this distinguish between the Greek words “logos” and “rhema.”
Secondly, while this Pentecostal teacher would not admit to this, the teaching undermines the authority of the Bible. When “logos” is reduced to “the written Word” but “rhema” is a fresh revelation from God, how does this not undermine the authority of the Bible? Instead of opening up the Bible and hearing directly from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the believer instead believes they have to pray and wait on the Spirit to give them a fresh, divine revelation from heaven. So what happens is simple: people want to hear from God so they don’t open the Bible to hear from God since they are taught that while the “logos” is good, “rhema” is better. This undermines the authority of the Bible and makes the revelation from God via direct communication through so-called “rhema” words more important. I know that most Pentecostals would reject such a view but they don’t see that their teaching is not helping people hear from God (which they can by simply reading the Bible) but is undermining the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17).
In reality, a good Greek study tool will easily clarify the issues related to “logos” and “rhema” and one need only go to a study site online. It would only take a few minutes to see the error of trying to make “logos” as the “written Word” and “rhema” as “a personal word from God.” This is misleading and false.
Finally, I repeat here again that if you want to hear from God you need only to read your Bible. That is it. I don’t need a personal vision, revelation from God. I have His Word and His Word is inerrant and infallible and true. I point again to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the Word of God is breathed out by God (ESV) and makes us “competent, equipped for every good work” (v.17 ESV). Peter the Apostle pointed not to his personal experience but the Word of God in 2 Peter 1:16-21. The Word of God is our sure foundation.
To hear from God is easy and only takes seconds. Take your Bible. Open it. Read it. You’ve now heard from God. Congratulations.
From time to time I feel it is important to address the use of the Greek terms “Logos” and “Rhema” which are often translated in our English Bibles as “Word.” In many charismatic circles, the “logos” is used for the Bible but the “rhema” is used for a “personal word from the Lord” or sometimes its where the Holy Spirit makes the Bible “a personal word.” Often I have found this doctrine is taught by those in the Word-Faith movement but that is not always the case and many godly charismatics have fallen prey to the teaching.
The teaching often goes like this: The Bible is important and it is the Word of God (logos). But God wants to speak to us personally and give us a “rhema” word where He reveals His heart to us. Sometimes this “rhema” word will come while reading the Bible (logos) but sometimes God will send His “rhema” word to our spirit. The “rhema” word is a “now word from heaven.”
What happens is that this doctrine undermines the authority of Scripture. It also undermines the sufficiency of Scripture. But it also misuses the Greek words. For example, the word “logos” is most notably used in John 1:1 where Jesus is called the Word of God. Oneness Pentecostals jump on the term “logos” as meaning “the thought of God” so that they can deny the eternality of the Son. Oneness Pentecostals teach that only God the Father (whom they name Jesus) is eternal but Jesus the Son is only eternal in the sense that He was in the mind of God the Father. The context does not allow for this (John 1:1, 14, 18). The word “logos” certainly is used here for Jesus but the word “logos” can also just mean “a word” such as in Matthew 8:8, 16; Luke 7:7. “Logos” can mean a saying or discourses or conversation such as in Matthew 12:37; 15:12; 19:22; 22:15; 26:1; John 4:39; Acts 5:24. “Logos” can mean a report or rumor (Matthew 28:15; Luke 5:15; 7:17). It can mean a common saying or proverb (John 4:37). “Logos” can also mean the Word of God whether the law or the gospel (Matthew 13:19-23; Mark 2:2; 7:13; 16:20; Acts 8:4; 2 Timothy 4:2). It can mean “the ability to speak, utterance” as in Ephesians 6:19.
The word “rhema” is used in many ways interchangeably with “logos.” For example, Jesus (who is the logos of God in John 1:1) says in John 3:34, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words (rhema) of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” And again Jesus says in John 8:43, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word (logos)” and then our Lord says in John 8:47, “He who is of God hears the words (rhema) of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”
Notice in the above texts that the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus, uses the words interchangeably. In context, rhema is not a subjective, personal word from God but is the Lord Jesus speaking to us. The Bible is the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) and reveals the words of God to us.
In 1 Peter 1:23-25 we read (NASB):
23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word (logos) of God. 24 For,
“All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,
25 But the word (rhema) of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word which was preached to you.
If “logos” is the written Word and “rhema” is the personal word from God, why does the Holy Spirit use them both here referring to the same thing? Again, it is because the New Testament writers use the Greek terms interchangeable at times. We must examine the context.
What is clear from 1 Peter 1:23-25 is that Peter has the Scriptures in mind. He is not pointing us to a subjective personal word. He is pointing us to the sufficient, inerrant, infallible Word of God and he quotes from Isaiah 40:6.
In conclusion, the teaching that the “logos” is the written Word and “rhema” is the subjective personal word is not found in the Bible. If you want to hear from God, open your Bible and read it. The Bible is all you need to hear from God. The Bible is breathed out from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and is useful for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (ESV). This “word” is what we are to preach (2 Timothy 4:2). We need no other. 2 Peter 1:16-21 is clear that we have the sure foundation if we heed the Word of God. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
In order for people to accept “words from God” apart from Scripture, the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is attacked. People are taught that the Bible is a “dead book” but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6 misused). Other “holy” books such as the Quran or the Book of Mormon will attack the Bible itself and mock it. In the end, if you want to hear from God read the Bible for the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible is sufficient. Open it up, read it, and you are hearing from God.
We want to hear from God. We want to hear God speak and know it is His voice. Can we hear God speak? The answer is yes! Here are simple steps to hearing God:
1. Get a Bible.
Adam Hamilton published a book called Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today. The book is written by Hamilton who pastors one of the largest mainline United Methodist churches in the world, The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. Many mainline churches look to Hamilton for leadership as they face mass losses of people leaving their churches. Hamilton comes across, at times, much like an evangelical while holding to his mainline theology. This has led pastors of United Methodists to flock to hear Hamilton speak because they see in him a hope for mainline churches.
I have an old friend who pastors a mainline United Methodist church. He is liberal. He wasn’t always that way and comes from a strong Wesleyan family who holds to conservative theology. He himself turned apostate years ago for sin (in this case, an immoral relationship with a woman). From there he had a “conversion” back to Christ after 9/11/2001 but decided to attend the very liberal Chandler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. This led to his complete rejection of what he saw as “fundamentalism” and embraced mainline theology (liberalism). Hamilton became his hero. My friend viewed Hamilton as he viewed Rob Bell or other liberals. He found in Hamilton though an evangelical passion that he missed but was not willing to return to. My friend loved that Hamilton preached from the Bible and preached the Bible as if he actually believed it but my friend knew that Hamilton rejected the Bible.
Now let me state here that Hamilton probably would not say that he rejects the Bible. He would state that he rejects the “fundamentalist” view of the Bible. For example, in this book Hamilton builds a case for the Bible while trying to argue that the Bible is not the “inerrant and infallible Word of God.” Hamilton holds that the Bible is only faithful as it relates to salvation. So where the Bible disagrees with modern science (Genesis 1-2) or where the Bible disagrees with modern culture (homosexuality, genocide, slavery, women) then we reject the Bible. God allowed the human beings who wrote the Bible to record these events as if God did them but He did not. When it comes to Darwinian evolution for example, Hamilton holds that the Bible is wrong about creation in Genesis 1-2 and he holds that the writer of Genesis 1-2 (whoever that may be) is not writing science but allegory. Modern science (in Hamilton’s worldview) has proven evolution and the Bible is just wrong about creation. Hamilton goes on to write that there are countless errors in the Bible and even fundamentalist know this. He points to the various resurrection accounts as proof of this.
Yet Hamilton wants to have his cake and eat it too. After all, Karl Barth saw what happened in Europe when liberalism won the day. He saw the mainline churches dying, the world turning toward evil and the rise of Nazi Germany out of the ashes of liberal theology. Barth wanted to save the Bible while rejecting the Bible. Hamilton wants that as well. He wants to hold to the good stories in the Bible, the morals that it teaches (especially about peace and love) while rejecting much of the Bible. He wants to preach the Bible as if its true while holding that it is not. So while trying to tear up the “fundamentalist” views of the Bible, he wants his own liberal friends to still read the Bible and respect the Bible though don’t take it too serious.
There are so many holes in Hamilton’s views. First, Hamilton fails to deal with Jesus’ view of the Bible. What view did Jesus have? Liberals love Jesus but they love the Jesus they have created in their own images. They want a “hippy” Jesus who loves everyone, is all about peace and love, and wants nothing more than for people to find purpose and happiness in life. They want to reject the Jesus who affirms the authority of the Bible. Hamilton never points out that Jesus said His Words were true (John 17:17) and His Word cannot be broken (John 10:35). Hamilton never points out that Jesus affirmed that God created all things including Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-5). Hamilton never points out that many of the stories that Hamilton would see as made up such as Jonah and the great fish, Jesus affirmed (Matthew 12:40). Hamilton never deals with Jesus’ affirmation of the authority of the Bible nor with His affirmation of its timelessness (Matthew 5:17-19 which would include the issues of homosexuality within the law of Moses).
Secondly, the Bible affirms its inerrancy. Texts such as Psalm 12:6; 18:30; 19:8; 119:140; Proverbs 30:5; Isaiah 45:19 affirm this.
I highly recommend Dr. Vic Reasoner’s The Importance of Inerrancy. He deals with the biblical arguments as well as the Wesleyan historical issue here.
Thirdly, Hamilton places himself as the judge of Scripture. This happens over and over again not just in Hamilton’s book but with others who reject inerrancy. How do we decide what is from God and what is from man? Who knows? Like others before him, Hamilton can pick and choose what he regards as “Scripture” or not. In fact, he could reject the entire thing (and many liberals do). Yet he holds that the Bible is true about salvation. Why? Because he believes that this is the bottom line issue for the Bible. The Bible is not a science book or a history book per se. It is all about Jesus and His work in saving us. He applauds those evangelicals who see the inerrancy issue as separate from salvation (in other words, one can be saved while rejecting inerrancy). He wants his own people to accept what the Bible says about salvation while ignoring what it says about creation or about homosexuality or about slavery.
Yet who is the judge here? Why accept what John 3:16 says if Genesis 1-2 is wrong? Why accept what God said in John 5:24-25 if the story of the Exodus is full of errors? Why even believe in the resurrection of Jesus if in fact the four Gospels record four different views of the resurrection as Hamilton states? Why should a person accept Hamilton’s view of salvation if the Bible is full of errors?
Hamilton could not say why. I suppose he would argue that he has experienced salvation (sort of the Karl Barth view of salvation and Scripture) and this makes it true (pragmatism). But if salvation is not based on a historical truth (in this case the resurrection of Jesus which Hamilton believes in while saying that the Gospels are full of errors), how can we know?
John states that we can know (1 John 5:13). John states that the resurrection is based on the truth of God’s Word (John 20:31) as does Paul the Apostle (1 Corinthians 15:1-7). Hamilton would affirm all this while rejecting the inerrancy of the Bible all because it doesn’t equal his worldview.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 states clearly that all Scripture is inspired by God or breathed out by God as the ESV states. God is truthful (Titus 1:2) in all His ways (Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Samuel 7:28; Psalm 33:4; 146:6; Isaiah 65:16; Romans 3:4; Hebrews 6:18). If Hamilton is wiling to affirm the goodness of God, the truthfulness of God, why reject His Word which 2 Timothy 3:16 states He breathed out by His Spirit? 2 Peter 1:16-21 is clear that Peter did not regard his experience as the foundation for truth but the sure foundation of God’s Word. I again point to Jesus who said that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) but Hamilton would say that only some of it is true and that only with regards to salvation. This is not logical.
In conclusion, Hamilton offers nothing for mainline churches. Nothing. He gives the same old answers liberals have always been giving for the Bible. Keep reading it! Keep studying it! But reject it! Because of pragmatism, Hamilton’s voice is listened to even by some who would say they believe the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. If I could have five minutes with Adam Hamilton I would want to talk about his Bible. Does he read it? Does he study it? Why? How does he determine what is true in it or not? How can you trust that God will save you if you can’t trust that He will preserve His Word?
My prayer is that Arminians would reject Hamilton’s views. Let us remain faithful to the Word of God. As John Wesley stated about the Bible,
“This is that word of God which remaineth forever: of which, though heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle shall not pass away. The Scripture therefore of the Old and New Testament is a most solid and precious system of Divine truth. Every part thereof is worthy of God; and all together are one entire body, wherein is no defect, no excess.” (Wesley, Journal, 24 July 1776)
Dr. John MacArthur is correct when he writes:
The most important lessons we ought to learn from church history seem fairly obvious. For example, in the two thousand year record of Christianity, no leader, movement, or idea that has questioned the authority or inspiration of Scripture has ever been good for the church. Congregations, denominations, and evangelical academic institutions that embrace a low view of Scripture invariably liberalize, secularize, move off mission, decline spiritually, and either lose their core membership or morph into some kind of political, social or religious monstrosity.
May that not happen to true disciples of Jesus. May we embrace the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God the same as our Savior held. May we be willing to die for its truths.
Written by The Seeking Disciple
02/23/2016 at 5:11 PM
Proverbs 2:3-5 (NKJV) reads:
3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
I am convinced that we need a revival of biblical discernment. How often do I hear sermons, songs, books, movies, etc. that claim to be Christian but lack any sound doctrine? Sound doctrine is neglected as pragmatism now reigns over the churches. We truly need a revival of discernment.
We need to question everything and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). How do we learn to discern? Discernment comes by heeding the Word of God. We must learn to hide the Word in our hearts so that we have the sword of the spirit to cut through false teachings (Hebrews 4:12). This comes by faithful reading and studying of the Word of God (Hebrews 5:11-14). As we hide the Word in our hearts, the Lord gives us the ability to discern based on His truth (John 17:17).
Proverbs 2:3 above states that we are to cry out for discernment and lift our voice for understanding. John MacArthur writes:
This shows the passionate pleading of one who is desperate to know and apply the truth of God. The least bit of indifference will leave one bereft of the fullness of wisdom.
I often pray for God to give me discernment according to His Word. I want to judge all things by the truthfulness of the Word of God (1 John 4:1-2). God’s Word is perfectly sufficient to provide all we need in hearing from God and learning discernment. We don’t need the Bible plus an inner voice or plus hearing “the voice of God” by subjective means. We need to open the Bible, learn the Bible, and through the Bible we get discernment to judge all things.
If this were to take place in the Church of Jesus Christ at large can you imagine what would take place? “Christian music” would turn from shallow, narcissistic lyrics to sound doctrine. Sermons also would turn from shallow stories, poor eisgesis, toward sound doctrine with unction. Evangelism would be focused on the gospel and preaching the truth of the gospel instead of trying to make friends with the world. The church would turn from its entertainment drive toward truth proclaiming. Pragmatism would be replaced with sound doctrine and biblical discernment of Bible teachers. False teachers would be turned away as the Church embraced the sufficient of the Word of God and learned how to rightfully divide the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15).
All the things the church is now known for from the love of money to the willingness to accept false teachers who fleece the saints to using worldly entertainment to feed the goats, this would all clear up if biblical discernment were sought after diligently.
Where do we begin? First, we must pray for discernment (Proverbs 2:3).
Secondly, we must seek discernment from the hidden treasures of God’s Word. This will in turn lead to a holy fear of the Lord and we will find the knowledge of God.
I want both the fear of the Lord in my life as well as the knowledge of the Lord. I want to know Him more and more (Philippians 3:7-10). I know that only in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). I want to know the Word of God not just to point out false teachings but for the good. I want to hear from God (John 8:47) and I know that I hear from God when I read and study His Word. His Word is the voice of God (Hebrews 1:1-3; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). I need no other voice.
Lord give me discernment.
Written by The Seeking Disciple
02/16/2016 at 6:26 PM
I was listening to Dr. James White teaching on Islam and their view of the Bible and his talk got me thinking about the nature of the Islamic view of the Bible and how that plays into their view of Allah’s determinism of all things. The Muslim view of Allah is that Allah is so sovereign that everything that happens whether good or bad happens because Allah wills it so and Allah renders all things certain. Some have tried to place the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty on the same level as the Muslim view but there are major differences between the two and I will not go there. Just a cursory reading of the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty reveals that despite their holding to divine determinism, there is a large element of God’s goodness and His love toward His creation including the reprobate (Romans 9:22).
The Muslim view of Allah is that Allah is not entirely loving and good. His nature is not loving. While Muslims believe that Allah is merciful and compassionate, they hold that Allah is to be known not in a loving sense but in submission (thus Muslims are those who submit to Allah). The nature of God in Christianity is that God is love (1 John 4:7-8). God is both holy and loving. God hates our sins and He will judge our sins but He has also sent His Son to bear our sins on the cross (John 3:16). This is the hope of the gospel, that Jesus has bore our sins (Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:7) and we will be raised to eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). No doubt sin separates us from our holy God and Creator (Isaiah 59:2; Ephesians 2:1-3) but God has sent His Son for our sins because of His great love for us (Ephesians 2:4-9).
The Muslim view of Allah is that Allah is completely other from his creation. Allah often remains angry with humanity because we fail to obey his laws as he gave to Mohammad in the Quran and mostly in the Hadith. Allah will judge all of humanity and will judge the Christians harshly for their worship of Jesus Christ (Surah 19:88-98). Muslims fear the day of judgment . They fear that Allah will not be merciful toward them even if they have kept his laws and sought to obey the pillars of Islam. Some Muslims even believe that no person is safe on the day of judgment for Allah may choose to ignore the works of the Muslim and simply choose to send them to hell because of his own sovereign choice.
Now back to my original thought. Islam holds that Allah not only controls all things but he renders certain all things. Nothing happens that Allah has not willed so. Allah is the supreme cause of all things. The view of God in Islam amounts to fatalism.
Yet Muslims hold that Allah gave the Old Testament (the Torah) to the Jews. Allah gave the New Testament to the Christians (the Gospels). Yet they hold that the Jews and Christians corrupted the Scriptures given to them by Allah. Therefore, Allah in his mercy sent Mohammad 600 years after the New Testament to correct true religion and to bring people back to submission to Allah. The Quran is seen to be given by Gabriel to Mohammad as the final revelation from Allah (notice that it had to come through the angel because Allah does not deal with mankind). Muslims then reason backwards that the newer revelation is superior to the older revelation.
Muslims hold that the Bible has been corrupted though they can’t truly point out the corruptions. They often point to variants in the Greek text such as Mark 16:9-20 or John 8:1-10. However, Christian scholars acknowledge these variants. We also acknowledge the textual differences among the Greek family of manuscripts. By the way, Muslim scholars know that there are variants in the Quran texts as well. Bear in mind that the Quran was written years after Mohammad had even died. The key differences here is that the Bible has thousands of manuscripts for it. The New Testament alone has thousands of Greek texts. Muslim scholars also now that the variants do not effect any major doctrines in Christianity.
Yet all of this, the variants, the so called corruptions in the Bible, etc. all happened because Allah willed it. Yet Allah states in the Quran that he will guide and protect his word. How can this be if Allah allowed the Old and New Testaments to be corrupted? How can Allah be trusted if he allows this? And if Allah allows the Bible to be corrupted, how can the Muslim argue that Allah has protected the Quran from error?
On my desk here as I write is a copy of the Quran along with my New American Standard Bible. The two are not even close when you read them. As Dr. White pointed out in his talk, just take the book of Acts and read it and notice how Luke emphasizes places, historical people, emperors, etc. while the Quran does little to none of this. One cannot read say Surah 2 and know for sure when this is or what is happening. The Quran is not even fun reading. Meanwhile, the Bible is full of history, poetry, prophecy, etc. that places the Bible and its events in human history with humans interacting with God as the will of God is accomplished mainly the salvation of mankind through the cross (John 1:29). The Bible has been given to us to reveal God’s final and ultimate revelation of Himself in His Son for His glory and for our salvation (Hebrews 1:1-3). John 20:31 records that these were written so that we might believe in Jesus and be saved.
The Quran, on the other hand, is not that way at all. The beauty is not there. The historical interactions are not there and what few are there are borrowed from the Bible in some form. Even what is known about Jesus has to come from the Bible (such as His virgin birth which the Quran has to borrow from). The Quran has to borrow from the Christian worldview (mainly the Scriptures themselves) to establish itself. The Book of Mormon is similar in this vein where Smith has to borrow from the Bible and then attack the Bible to establish his book above the Bible.
The bottom line is that if Allah is all-powerful and he causes all things then he caused the corruption of the Bible yet he said in the Quran that he gave the Bible and protects his words. Which is it? Did Allah protect the Bible or did he fail? Obviously, if the Bible is true then we have no need for the Quran and Mohammad is a false prophet and false teacher. This is my view.